Archive for the ‘Revelation 14:6-7’ Category

Reformation: Let’s Do It Again!

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Reformation Sunday
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 INTRODUCTION:  In 1505, a young but brilliant German law student named Martin Luther found himself caught in the open, on foot during a violent thunder storm.  As lightening struck the ground all around him, Luther in fear for his life threw himself on the ground, and with his face in the mud, he begged God to have mercy on him and spare his life.  He entered into “negotiations” with God by stating that while he knew he was a sinner, if God would spare his life, he would then dedicate his life to Him and become a monk.

 Luther did survive, and true to his word he became an Augustinian monk.  During his time in a monastery, Luther tried to work out his salvation and become closer to God through study of the Psalms, prayer, fasting, meditation and hard work.  But no matter how hard he tried, he could not seem to find peace for his troubled soul.  Nothing seemed to shake his feeling that he was a helpless sinner caught in the grasp of an angry and vengeful God.  We might say that Luther began to feel as if he was a flightless bird trapped in a gilded cage.

 In 1507, Luther was ordained to the priesthood and licensed to preach and study Theology at the University of Wittenberg.  Luther’s superiors soon discovered that God had gifted him with a brilliant mind, but yet he seemed to be held back by his now obvious feeling of guilt.  The solution?  Luther must make the pilgrimage to Rome, where church tradition taught that the journey itself would earn merit with God and bring the pilgrim closer to salvation.  Luther was also told that he could purchase certificates of forgiveness called indulgences, which were published by the Pope himself.  These indulgences guaranteed the purchaser of even more favor and love from God.  Well, Luther, ever the obedient monk did as he was told, but he found no peace in the pilgrimage or the possession of indulgences.

 While the story of Martin Luther is for some ancient history it is nonetheless our history, the history of the church.  Historians tell us that if we are to understand our history correctly, then we must learn to identify with it.  This morning, that will be easy for us.  You don’t have to become a monk, Priest or Pastor to put yourselves in Martin Luther’s shoes because we all have something much deeper than this in common with Brother Martin—we all struggle with sin!  If we think of Martin Luther as a flightless bird being held in a cage, then sin was the cage that held him captive.  Today, on Reformation Sunday, we celebrate the freedom that God gave first to Martin Luther and then to the whole church. 

This morning, we’ll look at how we too have been freed from sin and enabled to live as God intends us to live, by learning two concepts.  First, the cage that holds us captive has been opened; and second, we must be given two strong wings so that we can fly out of it. 

 I. The cage of sin can only be opened when God’s Word provides the gift to believe, that is faith.  All of us, like Martin Luther are born trapped in this cage of sin.  No matter how hard we try to free ourselves from our cage, we fail.  This is the hard lesson Luther learned.  It was not until God, through His Word provided Luther with the faith to trust in Jesus that Luther saw the cage of sin opened.  What does scripture say about faith?  Faith comes from the Word of God.  Martin Luther discovered this one evening while studying God’s Word in the privacy of his own room.  Through his devotional reading of our Epistle this morning, Luther received the gift of faith.  Listen to these words, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” [Rom. 3:21-24]

 By those Words, Luther discovered that God is not angrily staying far away from us and we do not have to try hard to reach Him or please Him.  In fact, the opposite is true.  You and I though born sinful and distant from God are not lost at all, for God Himself through Jesus Christ, has come to us so that we who were once lost are now found and released from the bondage of sin.  Through Christ’s work alone upon the cross, and through the gift of new life given to you within the holy waters of your baptism, you are now right with God!  Now while this is certainly Good News, it is not new news, but rather it is the consistent and old gospel of grace, which has been handed down from the very beginning; it had simply been overlaid and hidden by the traditions of men.  But now the cage, which once imprisoned Luther and even us, has been opened and like Luther, we are set free; but free to do what?  Free to follow God’s direction in our lives.   

 II. So Luther, now armed with a vibrant faith through God’s Word was able to rightly understand that Word.  Through God’s love and care, Luther was changed in a way that would impact time and eternity, and God’s desire is that we would also be changed in this way.  Remember that I told you that Luther was like a flightless bird, caught in a cage?  Well, the cage has now been opened, and now Luther and we too, must be provided two strong wings so that we can leave the cage of sin and soar where God wants to lead us.

 A. The first wing for Luther and for us comes from our Lord in these Words: “Come unto me, all you who are tired of carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”  For Luther there could have been no heavier burden than the burden of sin!  And now Jesus had miraculously removed that burden from him and exchanged it for peace with God.  Luther realized that he could quit working to please God and simply rest in God’s forgiving love.  What did Jesus say in our Gospel reading?  “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (And) if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  You see friends, not only have we been freed from the bondage of sin, but we have also been invited to rest in God’s love as His adopted sons and daughters.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12).  (And) all who are now led by the Spirit of God, are now sons of God.” (Romans 8:14).  What good news!  Rest in this gospel!

What’s preventing you from resting in God’s love?  What’s preventing you from living out this truth?  What is preventing you from becoming all that God has declared for you?  Is it anger, pride, or an unforgiving spirit?  If so, please hear my words, CHRIST HAS SET YOU FREE! 

For some, perhaps what’s holding you back is the very thing that hindered Martin Luther for much of his early life, FEAR!  There is nothing that I can think of that darkens the human heart more than fear in any of its many forms. But those of you who truly trust in Jesus Christ have been saved from all of your fears. You’re delivered from all fear of misfortune; you’re delivered from all fear of other people; you’re delivered from all fear of death; and you’re delivered from perhaps the biggest fear of all, the fear of eternity. Write this question on a card “Where will you spend eternity?” and give it to a person who doesn’t know the Lord, and it will make that person extremely angry; write the same question on a card and hand it to a Christian, and it will make them smile. Why is this? Simply because a person who trust in Christ alone isn’t afraid of eternity, but instead that person delights in the thought of eternity because to that person, eternity means joy, happiness and glory.  

B.  Now let’s look at the second wing that we’ll need in order to soar where God leads.  Jesus said just before He ascended into heaven: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  You see, the second wing God gives us, is His real presence in our lives, which is critical when we as His church and as individuals are obediently following His great commission.  In essence, God wants us to listen to His call and follow Him.  But follow Him where? Well out of the cage of course; out of our bondage to sin and fear and out into our communities, our schools, our places of work, and even into our families to be His Children, the Ambassadors of Jesus Christ.  Well what are we to do?  Well, we are Ambassadors of Christ aren’t we?  Well then we are to represent Him; we are to do the very thing He did, we must seek out and save the lost with the very same gospel and baptism that saved us.  Who are the lost?  They’re the broken people that live in our community.  They’re the people who still live in bondage to sin and fear.  They’re the people who become angry or afraid when asked where they will spend eternity. 

 Dear friends, we must go out to our neighbors and develop relationships of trust by serving them where they are.  We must be Christ to our neighbors!  Which is easier, to bring the City of San Diego into Trinity or for Trinity to go out into our community?  That’s right, now you see, we are being sent out to them!  We do this as individuals when we just simply live our lives at home, work, school, or where ever we go.  But how will we do this as a congregation?  Honestly, we don’t know yet.  That is why we have entered into our sermon series and it’s why we’re praying for God’s vision. 

 CONCLUSION: While we wait for God’s burden for the lost within our community to become His vision for us, we at least know this much: It is God’s desire that we along with Martin Luther and all other Saints learn to soar where he leads us.  But we must soar on two wings, not one.  To live only in the promise “Come unto me you weary and I will give you rest” is to live only half of the life God has provided for us.  Instead, while retaining the first promise, let’s also embrace the second one, which is that God will be with us as we go out into our community with the Good News in a way that will impact the people in our communities for time and for eternity.  Let’s not let our fear hold us back, because He is with us—we are not alone!  He is always with us, even to the end of time.  If we can live out both of these promises, then along with Martin Luther we will have reformed both our own lives of faith and also the faith life of our church.

 May God grant this to you and to His church, in Jesus name…AMEN!